Ballad of a Thin Man, by Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases brought more comics to the attention of more people than anyone else in the industry. Her work promoting The Death of Superman made an entire nation share in the tragedy of one of our most iconic American heroes. As a freelance journalist, she has been published in the Village Voice, High Times, Spy, the National Lampoon, Metropolitan Home, and more. For Marvel comics she created the series Dakota North. Martha worked as a researcher and assistant for the author Norman Mailer on several of his books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Executioner's Song, On Women and Their Elegance, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost.

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7 Responses

  1. Valerie D'Orazi says:

    Great column, Martha. I still remember the death of Superman — the black arm-bands, the black T-shirts. I think that, in a way, Superman was a little taken for granted before that event, and the storyline really convinced readers how much they really needed a Superman. But then came the 4 "Supermen" stunt. And then came Superman Red and Superman Blue. I think these things in comics should only be used sparingly, not be tied down with too many gimmicks afterwards, and only be reversed in the most exceptional of cases. Take Jason Todd — that was truly a sad death. Bringing him back after "punching a hole in time" — now that emotion has been lost.

    • Mike Gold says:

      I always wondered how a reader who had just lost a very close friend or relative would feel after reading one of those asinine resurrection stunts. Given the alarming frequency of these gimmick stories, the idea has gone past bad storytelling into actual disrespect.

      • Rick Taylor says:

        I'm with Mike on this one. Speaking as someone who has lost many loved ones and friends over the past decade or so, it's just shy of insulting the way the comics deal with 'death'. It's not really death at all. A cheap stunt is more like it. Let them 'kill' who they want. It's not really death because no one stays dead. Ten bucks says we see Barry Allen 'alive' again after 'Emergency All Over the Universe at the Same Time'.

  2. Melanie Fletcher says:

    You make an excellent point — using literary tricks to resuscitate a dead character is sorta cheap and devaluing, especially when compared to real life. No writer will be able to bring Mr. Ledger back, and that's a real tragedy.

  3. John Tebbel says:

    Stories are not real life. All kinds of things happen that couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't outside of a story. We need all kinds of stories at all kinds of times. Some characters are mortal, some are not. Some are both. That and other important human issues are worked out every which way through this gift. Art is not always entertainment.

    • Martha Thomases says:

      That's true. However, I remember a Wonder Woman story, about a woman who died of cancer that was incurable even with the Paradise Island purple ray, that made me sob like a baby after my mother died. The story wasn't great, but it touched a nerve. I didn't feel it was "disrespectful," (if that's the right word). If anything, it fit perfectly.

    • Mike Gold says:

      I agree with everything you said, John. But the problem with a literary device — and certainly one that has been so broadly adopted by the entire genre — is that through overuse it becomes impotent. Superhero deaths completely lack verisimilitude, and in order for a death to have impact we need to feel that its real. In superhero comics, we cannot believe any character is mortal. "Oh, Steve Rogers is dead? Well, he'll get better."Sorry to say this, but I sure hope not.